Any moment not fighting is a wasted second for Team Impulse.
A team that was built on the belief that summer would be their time to shine, a fourth place finish last season was ahead of schedule for the aggressive men of Impulse. The first few weeks were a slog to get through, their rookie Korean import, jungler, and shot-caller Rush having a difficult time adjusting from the high ranks of Korean solo queue to professional play in North America.
The team was littered with issues: three different main languages, two rookies on the squad, an AD carry that bombed out of the NA LCS on his old team, and visa issues that stopped their most experienced player, Impact, from playing in the first week of the Spring season.
It hasn't been an easy road for Impulse to get where they are now. They've taken their lumps in matches, getting blown out from their overzealous play and disjointed attempts at playing as a team. The weeks passed during the first half of the year and the team started to respond to their coach Sweet's philosophy, keeping their initial identity of being an unchained attack dog at all times but varying it up in terms of compositions and styles.
Impulse's tactics worked for them by the time the regular season closed in the Spring, grabbing a top five playoff spot and ousting Gravity in the first round. Their run came to an abrupt end in the semifinals against the eventual champions TSM, and they lost to Team Liquid in the 3rd place game, but they'd come a long way from looking like five individuals at the start of the season who appeared to have no idea how to play as a team.
With the Summer season now in full swing and two weeks done, Impulse sit at a even keel record of 2-2, being thrown a tough schedule in their first four games. It isn't the perfect start they would have hoped for, though their two defeats did come at the two top teams currently in the league, Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming.
Their wild play style still holds true for Impulse, flinging themselves at any tower with one or two players under it. The decision to go blitzkrieg at every second of the game is foolhardy at times, their dives usually working out for a kill or two but a well-coordinated team able to grab objectives off the numbers advantage given through the aggressive play.
This was never demonstrated better than their recent game against CLG. Impulse got off their dives, picked up their scramble kills, and caused chaos across the map, but it didn't faze a collected CLG squad.
A flashy dive and a nicely executed dive can bring the cheers and put some gold in the pockets of the carries, but a team that can not overreact to the situation can pick weaknesses in the all-out firepower by counter-attacking through towers, minions, vision in the opposite side of the jungle, and even a dragon if Impulse's headhunter unit marches up to the top lane.
CLG didn't flinch at Impulse's blunt movements, using Pobelter's Azir to zone out spots on the map and safely pressure objectives as a tight-knit group. Impulse weren't able to get the picks they've snatched against weaker less opposition, those teams playing into the hands of Impulse by scurrying around the map when blood starts getting shed and trying to beat TiP at their own game.
When you look at the line-ups of the NA LCS teams, maybe only one or two teams at best have the firepower capable of getting into a war of blood and mayhem with Impulse. When teams think they can go one-on-one with Rush or try to beat out Impact, it usually ends up with the other team slaughtered in a high kill game that plays at the temp that Impulse want from the first minute of the game to the last.
For Impulse to take the next step in their evolution, they're going to have to learn to deal with teams like CLG who don't succumb to the lust for blood. When it comes to their laning, they have arguably the best top and jungler combo of any team in the West, only Fnatic's mirrored aggro Korean duo of Huni and Reignover having the same influence over a game as Impact and Rush do when they play.
Mid lane, formerly LMQ/TiP's strongest position, has started to fade it the background the past two seasons, with WXW slowing down considerably from his regular season MVP performance in the 2014 Summer NA LCS. Once a player that could out-CS anyone in the league by 40 by the mid-game and could carry the old LMQ on his back, he's lost a step recently with the new dynamic of Impulse.
While there are three main languages on the team, there is a clear divide when it comes to partnerships on the team. Impact and Rush both speak Korean and have the best synergy on the team in the top half of the map. Apollo and Adrian are the two Americans on the team who share the primary language of English, and obviously they share the deepest connection due to being the bottom lane tandem of AD and support.
That leaves WXW somewhat on an island by himself; last season he was surrounded by four players who followed him into battle and all spoke Chinese. This year those familiar faces and voices of his friends are gone. Now being thrown into the veteran role of a team where he needs to try and connect with two different primary languages, hold the team together through his play, and try to keep up his play on a team that doesn't fit as well as he did on the old LMQ.
He's still one of the better mid laners in North America and showcases the ability to take over a game at the drop of the hat if the resources are allotted to him, but this isn't the same team or player that was able to steal away the MVP trophy away from Bjergsen last summer.
Last year's LMQ lived and died by the hand of the mid lane. This iteration of Impulse will go as far as their Korean partnership can take them. When Impact and Rush get rolling early, can throw a kill on either, and start the snowball, the game is almost over. Impact and Rush are two of the best players in the West when it comes to pure mechanics, and if they can get a small edge in the early game, the rest of the team will let them carry Impulse to a victory.
The problems come when Impact or Rush have a slow start. Even if they can get a tower dive or a skirmish kill, Impact or Rush dying early or falling behind in the first ten minutes of the game can be a hole that is impossible at times to get out of for Impulse.
The bottom lane of Apollo and Adrian are stable. They're not usually going to get destroyed in lane, feed kills, or look like they don't belong with the upper echelon bottom lanes in NA, but they're also not going to be lighting the world on fire or carrying the game through their laning performance without a steady set of dives going their way. Apollo has fallen into the position of the old man on the team, casually walking behind the rest of his crazy teammates as they go head first into sometimes certain doom, doing his best to get off the damage or utility needed to give the extra push for a won team fight.
This season he's been put into the role of Sivirbot. He picks Sivir, the rest of the team does crazy, wacky plays, and he runs behind them smashing the 'R' button while hoping his team doesn't end up getting themselves all murdered in the process.
His wave clear, utility, and objective control are needed through his Sivir play when the rest of the team is playing like all they want to do is see who can pick up the most kills. When bringing up the best AD's in NA, Apollo probably isn't going to come up on many lists, but he's essential to Impulse if they want to get to Worlds and do any damage there.
He's the only real calming influence on the squad — or at least tries to be on a squad with four bloodthirsty psychopaths all wanting to be the first pro team to rack up 100 kills in a professional match.
Impulse are unorthodox. When they're good and can get the blood raining down across the map, the game is in their hands. If a team can push back in the early game or slow down the pace to a chess match instead of a drunken street brawl, then Impulse shows the holes in their game and are exploited.
Even with the months of being a team, becoming friends, and growing as one of the best teams in NA, their coordination and synergy still can't match a team like TSM or CLG who can play that controlled, orderly tactic to win games if needed.
It's too late to change their character. They are who they are. They love to fight. They love to make plays. They love to dive, scrap, and go all-in when there is even a chance of securing a kill. NA championship? Maybe. Worlds? Possibly.
But whatever the outcome, they're going to shed either their blood or their opponent's, and Apollo will be running in the background, failing at his attempt to keep his insane teammates from putting their lives in danger for the thousandth time that game.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.